We’ve now passed the mid-point of the season and are looking ahead to harvest, as marked in our vineyard by the start of veraison in our tempranillo grapes, which was evident by July 20. Until this week, it has been a mild summer, with temperatures rarely above the low 90’s and often in the 80’s. We’ve even seen the occasional cloud. This weekend temperatures in the low 100’s are predicted, finally some sort of payback for the high heat and humidity seen across most of the country. The long lead time to these high temperatures should have allowed the grapes to build up their natural sunscreen and avoid damaging sunburn.
We just wrapped up the umpteenth spray of the year to prevent powdery mildew, and there is some chance it will be the last of the year. However, this will depend on how fast the balance of the vineyard goes into veraison, and how hot it gets. Meanwhile, we are taking a hard look at crop load, particularly in the Primitivo, and starting some fruit dropping. Crop load is looking about average–certainly not heavy–though we do see a lot of “seconds”, which are smaller bunches of grapes that form a few weeks after the main clusters. These can add up to a significant burden of fruit for the vine that we’re never going to harvest, so in a perfect world, we would remove them all. However, because there are many of them, it is quite labor intensive to remove them, and that labor comes at the hottest time of the year. So, it is an annual dilemma to decide what to do with these seconds, but this may be a season when they are particularly heavy, probably a result of the abundant, late rain in May.
As we speak, we are deploying overhead netting over our Quinta vineyard, which in a little more than 2 months should produce a crop of Portugese varietals for distribution to our Quinta shareholders. So far, the crop looks solid, and the challenge will be keeping the critters off of them until they’re good and ripe. These will likely include our annual bear visitor(s)–who seem to particularly favor this field–and several extended families of wild turkeys who have made our vineyard their daytime home.
We have had–since 2004–a couple rows of Muscat Canelli (White Muscat or Muscat Blanc) that we have used for a variety of purposes, but little for homemade wine. We have used them as eating grapes, as juice, as sorbet, as raisins, and they have been delightful for all of these uses. We have not made the grapes available to home winemakers because they are actually somewhat tricky to grow to our standards, with variable ripeness, sunburn, and susceptibility to mildew. Last year, with a little extra intention, we managed to get a decent crop and made some homemade wine both in a traditional off-dry style for Muscat and in a less traditional dry, ML-fermented style. The latter turned out delightful–somewhat like a Chardonnay but with the more delicate and exotic fruit notes of Muscat–and entered this in the Amador County Fair, where it earned a gold medal. This was our first entry of a white wine from Shaker Ridge, and a gratifying result after some less than stellar efforts with roses and whites in the past that never made it to competitions. After maybe another year of experience under our belt, perhaps we will make this limited crop of Muscat available for sale to home winemakers.
Looking ahead to harvest, we still have the option of waitlist status for a share of Quinta fruit, and immediate reservability of about a ton of Primitivo, and over 2 tons of Barbera. Our touriga is sold out. Though harvest will be the latest in a number of years–a situation that can create stress ripening fruit at higher elevations–we think we will be fine on our ~1500′ site. We hope we can get through the current heatwave and return to the fine summer that we (and our grapes) have been enjoying.